Spook's Lane, S'side
And all I can give you is me.
I can hear you say, No fair, when I have so many Annes to give; the Queen, the Dryad, the writer, the dreamer... To which I will answer that all of them want the same thing. To belong. To be amongst those who are kindred in heart, if not in blood, and live a good life. That's all I ever wanted. Everything else, the ambition, the imaginings, the writing, were only ways for me to understand what I had to give.
You've been wonderfully encouraging, so proud of your authoress. Yet somehow I came to believe that my stories meant nothing unless they were bound in a leather cover and sold in a bookstore. The truth is I wrote Iona for you. It was you I was thinking of as I finished each page, you I wanted to know all my secrets. Iona belongs to you, Gilbert, not to a publishing house. When I admitted that to myself, I realised that the joy I find in writing is not tied up with fame nor success, but love. I can't fit my heart into a best selling book anymore than I catch starlight in a jar. Do you know what you get when you try? Emptiness. And that's what I would have if I followed that path, someone who existed to be admired and acknowledged. A bird in a cage. A hothouse orchid. I don't want to be an orchid, forever pinned to fine silks and paraded around balls. I'm a snowdrop, a starflower, a white violet. I want a life that is woodsy and green and sweet when you hold it close. Gilbert, I want an Island life.
I have no right to say this when you've already given up Yukon. I don't want you to think you must shrink all your dreams for me. But as a very wise man once said, "I can't let you tie yourself to someone I'm not." I belong to my pearl on the sea, and whenever I am away from her shores I long for her, just as I long for you. If we decide to live somewhere else I will always feel I am treading water. And I can do that, Gil, I am made of stern stuff. But the Island will always be harbour and home.
So much for my home. Tell me what has happened to yours, for I can't believe you could be comfortable sharing a room with Miss Norcross. The whole thing is too delicious ~ yet tortuous too, to have to live a lie for the sake of a dream. I can't help admire her, though part of me is the tiniest bit jealous that I never thought of it myself. No matter. Norcross might have had you for a year. I have you for the rest of my life!
Isn't that a stupendous thought. I know I can imagine a lot, yet this little life of domestic bliss can never seem to fit in my head. It seems too big an idea, when really it's the most commonplace occurrence in all the world. It's you who makes the everyday miraculous, and I love you for it, Gilbert. Of all the gifts you've given to me, that is the greatest of all.
Redmond, K'port N.S.
Just when I think I know who you are you turn my world around. Do you truly want to live on the Island? I can't believe I am asking you this, yet it's the most obvious question in the world.
When I returned to Avonlea in April, I did it for you because I wanted to be there in case the worst should happen. But I did it for myself as well. The closer it came to signing Hulme's contract, the more doubts I began to have. I needed reassurance that we really had outgrown our home. I remember you telling me once, back in Redmond days, that Avonlea had begun to feel like a dress you didn't fit anymore. And when I saw you valiantly tugging the hat Mam made for you, over your head I finally knew what you meant. I saw you being the dutiful daughter, the aunt and the wife-to-be, but I rarely saw my Anne-girl (excepting that night in my room when I can fairly say I saw too much!) I came back to Redmond with your chemise, yet I missed you more than ever. Do you know which Anne I missed? The girl of last December, the one I shared Christmas with. I couldn't get her out of my mind. You were you and yet you were more; as though the land and the wind and the water had come together in the shape of this starry eyed girl. Then I read your words in one of your letters and I began to understand.
You simply wrote: The sea, the salt, the smell of snow... I could pretend I was home.
I think I knew then where you yearned to be, I just couldn't square it with the man I yearned to be for you. I wanted to be known for more than where I came from. "The Island Boy", like red hair, has come to be a blessing and a curse. I thought I had to go far from her shores in order to do great work, and what I discovered, Anne, is that life becomes big or small no matter where you go.
I am a doctor, that is a given; a sore throat, a gangrenous leg, a child being born, it amounts to the same thing whether I live in Paris or Whitehorse, or, I don't know... Glen St Mary. Just as many peculiar and intriguing things can happen in a village, as can in a town. Take little Freda Flaherty. I could travel to a hundred cities, each one grander than the last, and never see another case like the one I discovered on the outskirts of Sarnia. Granted I will never come under the notice of the great and the powerful if I live in some small harbour. But why should the great get the best of me? That best of me belongs to those who have given me the most. That's you, Anne, and my folks, and yes, my Island.
Speaking of my folks, I'm bracing myself to open Mam's letter now, though I already know how I shall reply. I won't be mentioning Norcross, however. That's going to my grave. I admire her too, though I can't say I like her any better. I'm currently camping out in the attic room. While I hardly mind, I thought she might thank me for keeping her secret and moving out. Yet when I informed her, all she said was,
"Well, be quick about it, Blythe, I want to have my bath."
We're meeting up at the library later, there's another case my uncle would like some advice on. A sailor at the Harbour Head is presenting with a mysterious cluster of symptoms. My guess is Lyme disease, but Norcross is convinced it's mercury poisoning...
Redmond, K'port, N.S.
Norcross' interview seemed to go well. I say 'seemed' because when I asked whether Hulme offered her the position, she glared at me and said, "What do you think?"
So that leaves me well and truly unemployed. How did it happen, Miss Shirley, that Redmond's best and brightest is the only fellow not to have a position to slide into the moment he graduates? I suppose the hospitals in Charlottetown are always seeking fresh blood, the talented ones are forever being poached by the mainland. But I've had my fill of institutions. The reason I was drawn to working with Hulme was because I could be my own man. I have no interest in rising up the ranks, even less in kowtowing to the egos of surgeons and specialists. I want to make my own way, but how... where?
The question should bother me more than it does. Instead I feel a supreme peace that somehow it will fall into place. That house of dreams we used to talk about, I can almost see it now. Not the materials it is made of or what it looks like inside. It's more that when I close my eyes and think of sharing my life with you, I always picture us standing before our bedroom window, looking out to a swelling sea and a golden beam of light.
What I picture next has little to do with that view, and more to do with a certain piece of furniture behind us. I did think I wanted to spend our wedding tour travelling the Island in search of that place, but that would mean getting out of bed. I tell you, love, if the hotel we find ourselves in should burst into flame, I think I would watch it burn around me, rather than lose once precious moment lying with you. I suspect the only time I'll be able to tear hands away will be to pinch myself.
I still can't quite believe it. You love me. And not for what I can give you or for what can I do, but for the Islander I am. Anne, I am scared to be so simple a man, though it's all I want to be. Then I remember that I was scared to love you, though you were the only woman I wanted to marry. You made me understand what courage is, and I love you for it, Anne. I love you.
I know there'll be people, those who aren't the kindred kind, who will look at us and shake their head and say what a shame, so much promise gone to waste. And then I'll recall what you said all those years ago, on the birthday of our happiness. You took my hand and looked at me and said, "I don't want marble halls or diamond sunbursts. I just want you."
Of course I am hoping for work that brings dignity to me and those I serve, and a patch of red earth to call home. But, Anne-girl, the only thing that I could never live without was your love. All I ever wanted is you.
Windy Willows, Spook's Lane
(For the last time)
I've come to another bend in the road. I've written you a good many letters in this tower these past three years. I suppose this is the last one I will write you for a long, long time. Because after this there won't be any need of letters. We'll belong to each other, we'll be together. Just think of it... being together. Talking, walking, eating, dreaming, planning, together. Sharing each other's wonderful moments. Making a home out of our house of dreams. OUR house! Doesn't that sound mystic and wonderful, Gilbert? I've been building dream houses all my life and now one of them is going to come true. As to whom I really want to share my house of dreams with... well I'll tell you that at four o'clock next year.
I'm not sorry Little Elizabeth isn't to be our first house guest. Pierce Grayson seems determined to make up for all the happiness her little life has lacked. She thinks she'll miss me madly, but I know the love Elizabeth has for her father will burn in her heart brighter still. I'm so happy for them Gilbert, and relieved. Leaving her would have made this moment more bitter than sweet. But now, though I'm tired out with exams and goodbyes, I feel as though sunlight flows through my veins, as though I could clamber up to that beam of light you see from OUR window, and walk straight over to you.
This convocation will be rather different to the last, and aren't I glad. Those last days we shared at Redmond were hardly my finest hour. But I plan to make it up to you, Gilbert-Almost-Doctor-Blythe. For one, you shall see a certain heart shaped pendant hanging securely round my neck. And there was a particular dress you liked, was there not? And hair worn down just so? And a dance card with your name for every dance! As for you, dear man, all I ask is NO TOP HAT ~ if Norcross is determined not to give up her disguise, then you had much better give it to her!
I look forward to finally meeting her, and saying farewell to Katherine. Who would have thought a year ago that she would see the Pyramids, while I remained at home? HOME. What a succulent sound that has. MY HOME ~ even better. OUR HOME ~ best of all! It won't surprise you, I'm sure, when I tell you that I have pictured far more than a window (or a bed!) Perhaps 'picture' is the wrong word, because what occurs to me most when I think of us living together, is what I shall FEEL. The heft of the door as I lock it at night. The satisfying click of the latch, the light of a lantern on my skin, as pure and clean as a moon beam. Then the pad, pad, pad of our feet on the stairs, the squeak of the springs as we leap on our bed. The weight of you upon me; the beloved, sacred weight... The freedom, Gilbert, when we have nothing to stop us and nowhere else to be.
Sometimes I let myself dream that after your graduation, I steal you away to some secret spot, and marry you then and there. There is no Marilla in this dream, no Sarah and John, no Blakes or Wrights, no Katherine and no Robin. Just you and me under a great tree, all twilit with shivering stars. There was a line at the Blake's wedding I often recall, spoken softly, each to each. When they had promised all they could to each other, they ended with a simple declaration~
"With my body I thee worship."
This is what I long for, Gilbert; to prove with my body what I have vowed before God, to make spirit and flesh become one. The only thing that has stopped me (besides you) is the thought that it wouldn't feel right nor real, if we weren't together on the Island.
The Island is where I met you, where I began to love you, where I knew in my soul you were the only man for me. I couldn't leave her shores anymore than I could wrench myself away from you. You're not just a boy from the Island. You are the Island. You are home.
Don't come for me at Phil's, meet me at the gate at Patty's Place ~ and yes to a posy of lily-of-the-valley!
Yours forever and ever and ever and ever...
* the sea, the salt, the smell of snow... from Anne's letter in chapter 8
* the first paragraph from Anne's final letter taken directly from ch 14, The Third Year in Anne of Windy Willows
* 'with my body I thee worship' comes from The Book of Common Prayer. It suddenly occurred to me that Rev Jo is probably Anglican/Episcopalian as his church is named for a saint (and Presbyterians don't do saints).
Since this is my last letter I did something I never do and switched the facts around a bit. I do not understand why Anne doesn't go to Gilbert's graduation in Anne of Windy Willows and instead waits for him in Avonlea. While story-wise it feels right that they should meet again at their old stomping ground, character-wise it stinks. So I have 'righted' that here and in doing so given the two of them another shot at Convocation. :o) As for where they end up, we all know it's going to be Glen St Mary, but the fact that Anne doesn't announce this until August suggests it still wasn't settled in June which is why I don't mention it here.
Thank you so much for reading, love kwak